Will Alpine and Aston Martin’s five year plans earn them a drivers’ championship? · RaceFans

For many years now, the metaphorical glass ceiling that seems to hold midfield teams from realising their dreams of becoming title contenders has felt more like a ceiling made of reinforced concrete.

Over the ten Formula 1 seasons between 2002 and 2011, seven different teams managed to secure a top three finish in the constructors’ championship on at least one occasion: Ferrari, Williams, McLaren, BAR/Brawn, Renault, BMW-Sauber and Red Bull.

But in the last ten seasons prior to 2022, only five teams have occupied the top three positions: Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams.

As time had ticked ever onwards, it seems it’s become increasingly more challenging for Formula 1 teams to bridge that gap from the middle of the pack to the front of the field, with Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari holding an almost iron-grip over the top three positions.

However, two of the ‘big three’s rivals further down the field are looking to finally break through and show the world that they have the ambition, the resources and the talent to not just establish themselves as contenders for race wins, but fight for the world championship too. And both have set a target of five years in which to do so.

Alpine already have championship winning pedigree in their DNA from their previous lives as Benetton in the 1990s and then Renault in the early years of the new millennium. But when Renault rebranded their F1 outfit as Alpine, the brand’s CEO Laurent Rossi explained that the Alpine were committed long-term to the sport, describing their mission as a “100-race project”. At a rate of just over 20 races a season, the deadline for Alpine to become bona fide title contenders its at just before the end of the 2025 campaign.

Aston Martin are also a team growing exponentially in ambition. After Lawrence Stroll and a consortium of investors took over Racing Point and rebranded the plucky Silverstone-based team as Aston Martin, Stroll unveiled a dramatic plan of investment into the team, announcing a massive $200million expansion of their headquarters. Throughout the 2021 season and at the launch of the team’s AMR22 earlier this week, Stroll has constantly reinforced the idea that Aston Martin are on a five year plan to win the world championship by the end of the 2025 season.

With such high expectations from the teams themselves and both having set a similar deadline for success, it’s fair to look at both Alpine and Aston Martin’s efforts over year one and judge which, either, may be on a realistic path towards a championship title over the next four seasons.

As Max Verstappen’s championship last season demonstrated, Red Bull value the drivers’ title more than the constructors’ championship. With the prestige afforded to the drivers’ world champion, it’s likely that it remains the main aim for most, if not all, teams on the grid. Therefore, the question benchmark for success to be measured in this exercise is whether either of these two teams will deliver a drivers’ championship by the end of 2025.

Alpine Out of the two teams, Alpine enjoyed the more encouraging first year of their five year plan. Esteban Ocon made the most of his first opportunity to fight for victory in the rain-affected Hungarian Grand Prix and held of Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel to claim an impressive and unexpected win. While Alpine have been far more muted about how they intend to move up the grid in coming seasons than Aston Martin, the fact that Fernando Alonso was more than willing to commit to 2022 and beyond should not be taken lightly. After all, the only reason Alonso came out of retirement was to chase that elusive third world title with the opportunities offered by the major rules changes of 2022. Alpine are the only team running the Renault power unit, which may have been seen as an advantage, were it not for how many customer teams they lost over recent seasons due to concerns about them underperforming compared to their rivals. With an engine freeze taking effect from this season, it could become a concern for Alpine themselves. Entering the 2022 season and the wealth of opportunities it promises, Alpine have bolstered their technical ranks with a restructuring. Former Ferrari and McLaren designer Pat Fry has been appointed chief technical officer, while engineering director Matt Harman has been promoted to technical director. While neither move will make any immediate impact on their 2022 campaign, it’s a action taken with the years ahead firmly in mind. Aston Martin Coming into 2021 with the momentum from their best ever season since their Jordan days, Aston Martin were hoping for more of the same and were disappointed to fall down to seventh in the constructors’ championship. However, 2022 was always the focus from the moment the Stroll-led takeover was first announced and Aston Martin certainly demonstrated their intent by being the first of the ten teams not only to show off their actual 2022 car to the world, but run a shake down with it the following day. Even if 2022 is another year spent in the pack, the most important developments are taking place off the track, with a huge “state-of-the-art” factory expansion due for completion in early 2023. With a new wind tunnel and a new simulator, Lawrence Stroll has stressed how the expensive new F1 facility will be “the only one currently fit-for-purpose with the financial regulations taken into consideration.” With the expertise of four-time champion Sebastian Vettel guiding them, the team have also made major hires to their off-track staff. Martin Whitmarsh has been brought in as CEO of Aston Martin Performance Technologies, with former Red Bull aero head Dan Fallows joining at technical director in April. And to lead them all, former BMW motorsport head Mike Krack has been brought in as team principal.

I say

It would be certainly welcome to see either or indeed both of these formidable teams take advantage of the new regulations and financial rules aimed to promote greater parity in the sport and join the ranks as genuine race winning contenders over the coming seasons. With Formula 1 being dominated by Mercedes for so long and only Red Bull and Ferrari ever being able to offer a challenge, more competition is always welcome in the sport. However, whether a reduced budget cap and radically different cars for the new season can be enough of a shake up to allow teams like Alpine and Aston Martin to cut the gap to the larger teams is a difficult question as recent rules changes in 2014 and 2017 appeared to have only increased the stranglehold of the big teams over the top positions, with the field only getting closer in recent years as regulations remained largely untouched. Alpine certainly have the pedigree and the Enstone outfit’s ability to succeed in multiple eras means that it’s hard to count them out as a threat with so many unknowns heading into this bold new direction for the sport. The power unit freeze may be a concern, but the team showed last season they have the driver line up to make the most of any opportunities that come their way and will likely be eager to show what they can do with the all new cars for 2022. But out of all the midfield runners, Aston Martin appear to have the greatest potential for growth with such major investment from its benefactors. While the impact of the team’s new facility and technical prowess will not be fully felt until after the 2022 campaign, Aston Martin are being given the best chance of being able to evolve into a more powerful force on the grid over the years ahead. Will they take a title by the end of 2025? It’s hard to bet against Formula 1’s well established powerhouses, but compared to the last two decades, there’s as good a chance of it happening over the next few years than at any other point in the 21st century thus far.

You say

Will Alpine or Aston Martin succeed in winning the F1 drivers’ world championship by the end of the 2025 season? Neither Alpine nor Aston Martin will win a championship by the end of 2025 (64%)

Alpine will win a championship by the end of 2025 – Aston Martin will not (36%)

Aston Martin will win a championship by the end of 2025 – Alpine will not (0%)

Both Alpine and Aston Martin will win at least one championship by the end of 2025 (0%) Total Voters: 11

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